Finding Gratitude in Marathon and in Life

My love story with running started when I decided I wanted to live a healthier lifestyle. Running played a great role in my fitness journey ever since. After two years of running and occasionally joining races (occasionally), I realized that I needed to create a goal that will challenge me more and, inspire the people around me, especially my loved ones, for the better. This is the main reason why I signed up to run 42 kilometers for the TBR Smart Dream Marathon, why I kept on putting my running shoes on and heading out for a run, even after a tiring day or week at work.

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I almost didn’t make it to the registration cut-off. I was part of the shortlisted candidates  but due to some unfortunate circumstances, I missed the the cut-off. Looking back at 2015, when I signed up for this,  I was also faced with a dilemma of which career path to take on. I It wasn’t easy. I took a leap of faith,  and decided to pursue my dream career in a financial firm.I have to work 12-13 hours a day on weekdays & 6-8 hours on Saturdays, which is why it’s difficult for me to commit to a running group – but I still did followed the program religiously. Running and training for the 42k has really taught me a lot about the values of commitment, perseverance and patience, and I think that has played a great part in my life- bringing me to where I am right now. I may not always be present in bull circles and sessions nor the most active in online group chats. I may have missed the chance to meet a lot of wonderful batchmates sooner, but my first marathon was so special to me because as cliché as it sounds, it really made me know myself better, made me realize even more that my heart (and my legs) are indeed designed to travel, to run and to conquer any height and ,any race. It taught me to wake up before sunrise to run alone, to never skipping gym workouts even after spending long hours at work, to say no to friends and beer Fridays, even skipping on going home to my family so I could train on weekends. Because when your work schedule is so tight or when you have no running group or a coach to train with and there’s no one else to push you, you have to push yourself even harder.

When things get tough and you think of quitting, there’s only your voice to cheer you on to move forward. I honestly feel like I’ve made an even closer bond with myself, as crazy as that sounds.

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Last February 21, 2014, I was on a climb aiming for the summit of Mt. Marami. It was a 6-hour ascent to the campsite then another hour to reach the summit. Last February 21, 2015, I witnessed the infamous sea of clouds in Mt. Pulag. I wasn’t able to see it during my first attempt last 2012 so I decided to give it another try and boy, was it memorable. Last year, February 21, I arrived at the race village at 12am. My first ever marathon started at 2am. It’s so surreal to think how linear these moments are. My climb last 2014 and 2015 and last year’s race are all part of my goals/dreams. They’re so much alike except that last year, I didn’t have to look up the sky to see the stars. Because seeing all 800+ runners, dreamers, future marathoners is way more than seeing a sky full of stars. Stars with different dreams, challenges, beliefs and stories within them. I may not have have not gotten the chance to meet a lot of dreamers personally, but I feel grateful to have shared this same journey, this same dream, with this community.

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What I like most about my 22 weeks of training for the marathon is the reality that somewhere along the journey, I have learned more about the values of commitment, determination, perseverance and trust in myself. Also, I am grateful that I have become a part of what started as one dream but is now a community, a tribe—united by a love and passion for running.

Jaymie Pizarro (The Mother Bull) always says that our lives will change once we cross the finish line of our first marathon. But that wasn’t the case for me. Because my life changed when I saw my name in that master list of dreamers. My life changed that same moment I decided to commit to training for 22 weeks. My life changed that one January night when I was already thinking of postponing my first marathon to next year but did the 2-hour LSD the next morning anyway. My life changed when I declined my friends’ invites during the holiday season and trained in Camp Aguinaldo instead. My life changed when I quit eating rice and limited my carbs and sugar intake. My life changed when I decided to be more mindful of what I put inside my body.

My life changed along the way to the finish line.

And I will forever be grateful for TBR, to Jaymie for helping me arrive here. Crossing the finish line is the cherry on top of such a beautiful and humbling journey; ! I remember smiling and then crying when I saw the 41st km mark and thinking to myself, “Girl you really did that? You ran those 41 kilometer?! Just 1 more kilometer and you’re done.” I started walking every hundred meters because I didn’t want it to finish yet. It felt nostalgic seeing the finish line so, so close and knowing that this part of my dream is was about to end. I wanted to savour it, savour every last few meters before I crossed that line. It felt as if a trip was about to end and I had to go back home, and all I had were beautiful memories of such an amazing journey. But this time, I know I’m not really leaving anything behind. All the lessons that I have learned from my TBR marathon experience, I will bring along with wherever the soles of my feet lead me.

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I once heard life coach Martha Beck say that she transformed her life by using the philosophy of “you are getting warmer” versus “you are getting colder” to find happiness. By continuing to drift and lean towards the things that made her happy – aka the “warm” – she found a powerful spring to be deeply happy.

Yes, I happened to find my “getting warmer” moments while running. But this isn’t just about running. You don’t have to be a runner to make this choice. You don’t have to train for a marathon to find your “getting warmer”. Choosing gratitude, to smile and to stay positive is transformational. Instead of feeding off of the negative emotions that come from anxiety or judgement, my body and my muscles thrive when I allow myself to see beauty. And then? I choose to savour it. Running helps me be mindful of this. Some situations are impossible to accept easily. Some feel painful. Others seem void of any beauty. Normally, I’d let myself be dominated by those moments at least temporarily. But what I realized as I ran miles and miles was that I could mute those feelings by overpowering them with awareness and gratitude.

Running taught me more about myself than anything else I’ve done. Hours spent alone. Nights spent mentally preparing for mornings on my feet. The majority of the runs being ones I never wanted to go on, but I did. 26.2 miles I never thought I’d conquer, but I did.

In the end, I am a person that has always thrived on setting goals and achieving them. But running has reminded me to be grateful. To accept and appreciate the experience for what it is. If gratitude and loving-kindness can work to get me through a slow 5-hour-and-55-minute marathon – I figured it was worth a shot in the day-to-day stuff too, right? Find that passion that keeps you hungry. Keep evolving. It will surprise you.

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